So it’s that time of year again, where we peer into our crystal ball, to examine what we think will be on trend for 2015. We weren't far off when we made predictions a year ago, so fingers crossed our predictions below will hold well for another twelve months. Only time will tell!
Evolution of Responsive Design
As we keep hearing, wearables is an industry set to take off in the next few years and according to online consensus, it is set to be worth $11.61 Billion by 2020. Market leaders Apple have entered the market with their ‘Apple Watch’, which is set to be released in the first quarter of next year. Whether this product will take off is yet to be seen, but with their great influence, they will certainly place wearable technology on the map for those consumers who have yet to experience these devices. Responsive web design is set to evolve with the mass-introduction and adoption of wearable devices, and we will expect to see the first smartwatch-optimised websites in the first half of 2015. Smart watches and smart web enabled devices with smaller screens offer the opportunity to redesign sites for the context in which the device is used. For example a smartwatch optimised website may feature a simple navigation, offering quick access to office directions or contact details.
This development of functionality is only likely to increase, as we see an increasing number of different connected devices enter the market. Each of those devices have a different situation in which they are used, therefore the design and layout of information can change to better the user experience.
Evolution of Flat Design
Drop shadows are on their way back for 2015, with big hitters Apple and Google already setting the trend, with the introduction of Apple’s iOS 7 design language back in late 2013, and more recently Google’s ‘Material Design’ language.
Google took the idea of minimal flat interfaces a step further by introducing the use of contextual information with layered interfaces, and it was this philosophy that brought the return of purposeful drop shadows. The trend is set to continue, as the subtle introduction of shadows bring benefits to the user, by introducing visual affordances that suggest a sense of place and location.
Development of Card Design
‘Material design’ also brought around the development of an existing Google philosophy of ‘card design’. It was not exclusive to Google, but as industry leaders, their influence seemingly knows no bounds. Popular social networks such as Twitter and Pinterest also use the card-style interface to segment information into useful visual ‘chunks’ that lend themselves well to responsive design. Google really pushed this idea when developing the wearable version of their Android software, so that the watch interface could display small, bite size pieces of information in the card format that the user could easily view and act upon.
The decline of the website
The development of voice-controlled interfaces such as Apple’s ‘Siri’ or Microsoft’s ‘Cortana’, has given users access to information they need without ever visiting a website; such as cinema times, weather forecast, or sports results. Physically of course, there is still a need for a company to store information on the web, as the voice control interfaces need a website to source the desired information.
Other factors are influencing the way in which we will access and experience the web; the influence of smartphones, tablets, and in-vehicle entertainment systems have changed the way in which a site needs to be displayed. Designers now consider each user scenario, which then leads to a design solution that is most effective across greatest number of devices. Therefore, the visual style and the layout of the ‘site’ can behave more like a web-app, or channel-like interface.
The convenience of in-built voice search increases user expectation to access online information quickly. Similarly, smartwatches allow users to access online information easily, with little device interaction. This presents a challenge to designers to meet the ever increasing expectations of consumers by balancing aesthetic design against the need to facilitate smooth navigation, and easy access to desired content.
This presents a challenge to designers to meet the ever increasing expectations of consumers
Whether this particular trend develops over the next year remains to be seen, but we would expect this to develop more in the next few years, rather than immediate, noticeable shift in web design trends.
Fluidity and movement
We are beginning to see a greater use of ‘live’ artifacts in the current landscape. This could be due to the the resurgence of the ‘GIF’ in the early 2000’s, or down to the short video sharing social networks ‘Vine’ and ‘Snapchat’. Both of which have brought the benefit of quick, digestible video and animation to the mass market. From this, some websites have chosen to adopt subtle animation in their image use, or short videos, which can bring a sense of movement and depth to the customer experience.
From a user perspective there aren't many benefits to adding animation or movement into every website image, unless the animation is demonstrating something. It can also be distracting if websites do choose to over animate in site imagery. However, there is certainly a benefit to challenging the current norm, where almost all websites are static.
It seems that the dominant trends from 2014 will carry on across to next year. The main influencers being; wearable tech, the evolution of the responsive website, and the development of flat design. We are certainly looking forward to watching these trends unfold over the next twelve months. So for now, we’ll put the crystal ball back in its box for another year, or more likely, just continue to use it as a paperweight.